Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Is safety training for teen workers effective?

Training is often prescribed as a panacea for workplace injury among teens. The journal New Solutions has just published an interesting article about teen safety training entitled “Teen Worker Safety Training: Methods Used, Lessons Taught, and Time Spent.” At present, the article is available as open access (i.e., you can read the whole damned thing for free!).

The study entailed focus groups, individual interviews and a questionnaire (n=884) administered to high school students in Kentucky. Forty-five percent of students worked and 70% of those indicated they had received safety training. Forty percent of employed teens had been injured at work (broadly mirroring Alberta data).

The most common forms of safety training were safety videos (42%), safety lectures (25%) and safety posters/signs (22%). There were gender differences in what was taught, how it was taught and how long the training lasted. An important finding is this:
...the top lesson [of safety training] selected by teens was “how to do my job.” The high proportion of teens selecting this choice as a lesson, compared to other lessons, indicates that many teens confuse job training with safety training and/or that most workplaces are not providing safety lessons.  
As one fifteen-year-old female working in a pizza restaurant best described it: “It’s when they teach you how to do your job so you can know to do it quickly and fast.” Fewer than one-third of teens were taught lessons directly related to safe work practices, such as preventing slips, trips, and falls, safe lifting practices, and reading warning labels; and fewer than 20 percent were taught what tasks they should not do at work.
The authors conclude:
Although most teens are getting safety training, it is inadequate. Lessons addressing safety behaviors are missing, training methods used are minimal, and the time spent is insignificant.
Overall, a rather disturbing bit of research that partly explains why safety training among teens has not been particularly effective.

-- Bob Barnetson

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